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Rite Aid, NHL’s Blackhawks tap SMS to drive sales: MMA Forum

June 9, 2010

Rite Aid has had success with mobile couponing programs

Rite Aid has had success with mobile couponing programs

NEW YORK – Case studies at the Mobile Marketing Association’s Mobile Marketing Forum from brands such as the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks and Rite Aid illustrated how to drive retail sales through mobile marketing.

With executives from mobile marketing company Vibes Media and mobile service provider/aggregator Sybase 365, the “Building Your Brand Through Mobile Marketing” track featured best practices for brands and publishers. Pharmacy chain Rite Aid tapped Sybase 365 for the mobile Wellness + Loyalty customer relationship management initiative.

“Mobile CRM is coming together with mobile commerce and mobile payments,” said Cameron Franks, senior director of enterprise services at Sybase 365, Dublin, CA. “How do you turn a prospect or an existing customer into a loyal customer, and do it as efficiently as possible to increase profitability?

“You get in touch with customers more cheaply via mobile than alternative channels—mobile communication is cheaper than call centers,” he said.

“However, mobile is not a specific standalone—think about mobilizing and improving existing loyalty programs rather than setting up something from scratch on the mobile side.”

Cameron Franks is senior director of enterprise services at Sybase 365

Cameron Franks is senior director of enterprise services at Sybase 365

Stage 1 of the Rite Aid program involved enrolling customers, getting them to opt in to the program by providing their mobile numbers.

For the initiative, Rite Aid let customers use their mobile phone number as a back-up loyalty ID, so they did not have to bring their plastic loyalty cards.

Rite Aid then offered SMS alerts for prescriptions and discount offers.

For Stage 2, Rite Aid began looking at how the brand could incorporate mobile vouchers as part of the loyalty mix to drive traffic between different parts of the store.

Working with Eagle Eye Solutions, Sybase powers mobile couponing via text messages with an eight-digit voucher ID number, which can be validate via a PIN pad at the retailer’s point of sale.

In the case of Rite Aid, consumers were asked to text the keywork RITEAID to the short code 69986 to receive an offer with an eight-digit code via SMS.

“As the technology advances, bar codes will be easier to deploy, but SMS is a way to do this now that works with all phones,” Mr. Franks said. “Boosting customer loyalty through mobile-enabled loyalty programs has to be part of the larger strategy.

“Build mobile into the whole core of your loyalty system and your retail system,” he said. “Driving enrollment of mobile numbers is key and also asking permission to communicate with them.”

Chicago Blackhawks score with SMS
The NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks One Goal mobile alerts initiative, powered by Vibes, drove more than 75,000 people to opt in to the team’s mobile database.

“That’s a big number, and the mobile program helped the Blackhawks sell more tickets, sell more merchandise, get the word out, drive loyalty and fan engagement and make things more compelling,” said Jack Philbin, cofounder/president of Vibes Media, Chicago, and vice chair for North America of the Mobile Marketing Association. “The team used mobile to build a compelling fan experience.

“Mobile is at a crossroads between the power of mobile technology and the creativity of marketing—the future of marketing rests in technology and innovation,” he said. “Mobile gets people at traditional brands and agencies excited because it provides the opportunity to do one-to-one personalized messaging and marketing, creating a one-to-one personalized conversation at scale.

“Millions of people can take a different path that can be personalized for them.”

Mr. Philbin said that mobile tools such as SMS, MMS, WAP and applications are inexpensive relative to other channels, have high impact and high relevance and achieve high response rates.

The Chicago Blackhawks are driving sales via SMS

The Chicago Blackhawks are driving sales via SMS

Add to that the ease of cross-selling, the ability to connect to features, content, customer care, demos and sampling, as well as precision targeting by time and location, and mobile is well suited to many campaigns.

However, mobile should be thought of as a center point to integrate cross-channel messaging as a way to activate traditional campaigns, making them interactive and measurable.

Mr. Philbin listed mobile CRM tactics, including opt-in database management, interactive SMS and MMS and customer engagement programs such as the one his company runs for the Blackhawks.

All of these mobile tactics helped the Blackhawks increase fan loyalty, which has translated to increase ticket and merchandise sales.

“The mobile phone is the most personal device you can have,” Mr. Philbin said. “It gives people the ability to interact with brands on a personal level and help brands achieve their objectives.”

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Dan Butcher is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer. Reach him at

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